Thursday, August 23, 2007

The GOP 'Silly Season' of "A Elephant Sat On It"-Excuses

Remember Post-Election Florida & Bush's TANG Memos? GOP Consultant Alleged To Have Been Involved in GOP Dirty Tricks Ousted, Tied To Threatening Call

The reports:
Senate Republicans ousted controversial political consultant Roger Stone on Wednesday, following allegations he left an obscene, threatening phone message for the elderly father of Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Democrats want an apology and called for an investigation by a Senate panel, but no apology was offered by Senate Republicans or Stone, who continued to deny any involvement in the message left Aug. 6 for Bernard Spitzer at his office.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, which Bruno controls, was paying Stone $20,000 monthly. He said Stone resigned at Bruno's request.

Bruno said he would not let the episode deter Republicans in their push to find out whether the Democratic governor and his chief of staff knew of efforts to gather damaging information about Bruno's use of state aircraft and State Police drivers.

Political sources said some advisers wanted to keep Stone, and he may end up working for individual senators in the coming months.

But Bruno abruptly cut Stone free after discussions with advisers, and amid calls from Democratic leaders for Stone's ouster.

Since late June, Stone has been advising the Senate majority, conducting conferences with Republican members and campaign committee chairmen and offering ideas on how to attack Spitzer and retain control of the Senate next year. Republicans hold a two-seat majority.

In an interview Tuesday and in a statement released Wednesday, Stone, 55, a veteran of 35 years of political operations, denied wrongdoing for alleged misdeeds and stayed on the offensive.

"The guy who makes threatening phone calls to people is Eliot Spitzer, not Roger Stone," the Miami-based consultant said.

Stone claimed he was at the theater that night, but New York magazine reported that the play he claimed to have attended, Frost/Nixon, was closed that evening.
Bruno said he is unsure if Stone made the threatening call to the governor's father.
Bruno told reporters at an event at Saratoga Race Course that Stone "agreed to resign and end his relationship with us at our request. We are not going to allow this incident to become a distraction or to be used as an excuse to hamper people from getting at the truth."

Bruno, however, did not confirm or dispute Stone's account of the matter.

Someone left an obscenity-laced message for Bernard Spitzer, 83, telling him he would be forced to testify before the Senate Investigations committee, and possibly arrested, in connection with his financial help in his son's 1998 campaign for attorney general.

"I'm not second-guessing anybody," Bruno said. "Roger says he didn't do it; he says somebody got into his apartment ... I did everything in my power I have control of. We asked him to resign."

Bruno called the allegations "serious" and "despicable," but said he doesn't think it's important whether he believes Stone's story -- that someone, likely Spitzer allies, got into his Manhattan apartment and placed the call, somehow imitating his voice.

What's important, Bruno said, is figuring out if Spitzer and his secretary, Richard Baum, abused executive power to go after Bruno. He said the two issues are "totally unrelated."

However, Democratic leaders sought to link the two. Earlier in the day, state Democratic Party Chairwoman June O'Neill and Co-chairman Dave Pollak called on Senate Republicans to fire Stone and apologize for his alleged actions.

And Sen. William Stachowski, D-Buffalo, a member of the Senate Investigations Committee, wrote to Bruno demanding an investigation into the Stone affair. Stachowski said the public should learn who in the Senate majority knew about Stone's actions.

Stone worked most closely with Bruno and key central staff members such as Ed Lurie, executive director of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, and Senate communications director John McArdle, according to a person apprised of his business dealings.

Stachowski was later backed by Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, who called for an inquiry into how much Stone was involved in the Senate majority's government business.

Senate Investigations Committee Chairman George Winner said an investigation by his panel is highly unlikely.

"If this wasn't the silliest thing I ever heard of. To what advantage would someone have to harass an 83-year-old man?" said Winner. He said he can't consider Stachowski's letter and Smith's news release on the matter "serious."

"It's a complete smoke screen," he said. "What possible offense was committed here? The only offense was the making of a call."

He said he has no idea if Stone made the call and said he does not know Stone and has never talked with him.

Some former colleagues of Stone say they have little doubt that he made the call.
"If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck," said John Zogby, a Utica-based polling company operator who worked with Stone on the 2002 gubernatorial campaign of Tom Golisano.

"I was told from the beginning to watch out for Roger Stone, and while I felt that I worked well with him, I did come to see that he would favor tactics that I considered to be problematic," Zogby said. "I don't think I would work with him again."
Stone has worked on dozens of campaigns and public affairs jobs since the 1970s. Republicans have been his speciality, including Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and Connecticut Gov. John Rowland. He was part of George W. Bush's team in Florida in 2000.

He has served wealthy political aspirants like Donald Trump and B. Thomas Golisano.
He's no stranger to controversy. In 1996, news reports highlighted ads for mate-swapping that featured Stone and his wife. He claimed a "sick and disgruntled" person must have posted his picture and ad on Internet sites, even though his credit card was used to pay for the spots.

More recently, he was found by the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying to be part of a conspiracy behind an ad campaign to smear the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, using a front group to place ads portraying the tribe as criminals. An investigation in 2000 ended with $250,000 in civil penalties against various parties including Trump Hotel and Casino Resorts. His penalty was $100,000.

Stone was also alleged to have the person who gave Bill Burkett the TANG memos.

No comments: